Newcastle Falcons will learn the identity of their European Challenge Cup pool-mates on Thursday when the draw is held in the Swiss city of Neuchatel.
The draw will begin at 1pm UK time and will be streamed live on the tournament website www.epcrugby.com .
The key principles of the draw are outlined below, with Newcastle Falcons in Tier 1 of the tournament.
• The 20 clubs which have qualified on merit from the Premiership, the Greene King IPA Championship, the Guinness PRO12, the TOP 14, the PRO D2 and from the Continental Shield will compete in the 2017/18 Challenge Cup in five pools of four.
• The clubs are divided into four tiers based on the qualification positions from their respective leagues and on the Continental Shield. A draw will be carried out in advance of the pool draw proper to complete the tiers.
• Each of the five pools will include one club from each of the four tiers.
• Each pool will have at least one club from the Premiership, the Guinness PRO12 and the TOP 14.
• There will be no more than two clubs from the same league in a pool.
• No pool will contain two Guinness PRO12 clubs from the same country.
• Clubs from the same league will be kept apart until the Tier 4 allocation.
• A club from the Continental Shield cannot be drawn into a pool which contains two TOP 14 clubs or two Premiership clubs.
For the purposes of creating the tiers, the clubs are ranked based on their finishing positions in the TOP 14, Premiership, Guinness PRO12, PRO D2 and Greene King IPA Championship leagues, or on their qualification from the Continental Shield.
The teams in the 2017-18 European Challenge Cup are as follows:
TOP 14: Stade Francais, Brive, Pau, Lyon, Bordeaux-Begles, Toulouse, Oyonnax, Agen.
PREMIERSHIP: Newcastle Falcons, Gloucester, Sale Sharks, Worcester Warriors, London Irish.
GUINNESS PRO 12: Cardiff Blues, Connacht, Edinburgh, Newport Gwent Dragons, Zebre.
CONTINENTAL SHIELD: Enisei-STM, Krasny Yar (both Russian).
Tier 1 will include the three No 1 ranked clubs from the TOP 14, Premiership and the PRO12. Tier 1 will also include two of the three second-ranked clubs from the TOP 14, Premiership and the PRO12. The two clubs will be decided by a draw in advance of the pool draw.
Tier 2 will include the three clubs which are ranked third from the TOP 14, Premiership and the PRO12. Tier 2 will also include the second-ranked club which was not drawn into Tier 1, and the club which is ranked fourth from the same league as the club which was not drawn into Tier 1.
Tier 3 will include the two clubs ranked fourth which are not in Tier 2. Tier 3 will also include the three clubs which are ranked fifth from each league.
Tier 4 will include the remaining clubs from the TOP 14 and the two clubs from the Continental Shield.
For the purposes of the pool draw, all four tiers must be established at this point. A draw has to be made to establish the five Tier 1 clubs, and once Tier 1 is confirmed, Tiers 2, 3 and 4 fall into place as per the key principles above. The draw then takes place to establish which two clubs from the three second-ranked clubs – ie Gloucester, Brive and Connacht – will join Newcastle Falcons, Stade Francais Paris and Cardiff Blues in Tier 1. The Gloucester, Brive and Connacht balls are placed in the bowl, and two clubs are then drawn into Tier 1.
Tier 1 clubs: Newcastle Falcons Stade Français Paris Cardiff Blues XXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXX.
Once the Tier 1 clubs are established, the five Tier 2 clubs can be confirmed as follows: the three third-ranked clubs – Sale Sharks, Pau and Edinburgh Rugby – will be joined by XXXXXXXX who were not drawn into Tier 1, and by the fourth-ranked club from the same league as the club which was not drawn into Tier 1.
Tier 2 clubs: Sale Sharks Pau Edinburgh Rugby XXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXX.
Once the Tier 2 clubs are established, the five Tier 3 clubs can be confirmed as follows: the two remaining fourth-ranked clubs, XXXXXXX and XXXXXX, and the three fifth-ranked clubs: London Irish, Bordeaux-Bègles and Zebre Rugby.
Tier 3 clubs: XXXXXXX and XXXXXXX, London Irish Bordeaux-Bègles Zebre Rugby.
Tier 4 clubs: Toulouse, Oyonnax, Agen, Enisei-STM and Krasny Yar.
Each of the five Tier 1 clubs are drawn, followed by a pool number for each club.
Draw for the five Tier 2 clubs. As each club ball is selected, a draw is then made to allocate the club a pool from the available pools based on the key principles above. Some clubs may have to be placed directly into a pool in order to ensure the key principles apply.
Draw for the five Tier 3 clubs. Again, as each club ball is selected, a draw will then be made to allocate the club a pool from the available pools based on the key principles above. Some clubs may have to be placed directly into a pool in order to ensure the key principles apply.
Draw for the five Tier 4 clubs. Some clubs may have to be placed directly into a pool in order to ensure the key principles apply.